By Sheri Williams
As workers across California cope with the fears and economic hardships brought with the coronavirus, unions have been working with political leaders to protect working families.
A number of new measures have passed at the city, state and federal level in recent days to help protect working women and men, and their families, during this national crisis.
In Sacramento, the City Council adopted an ordinance on March 17 to establish a temporary ban on evicting residential tenants unable to pay rent due to a loss of income caused by COVID-19. City Council extended this ordinance on March 24 to include commercial tenants and to waive late fees.
“It is vital for us to protect residential and commercial tenants during this tenuous time,” said Assistant City Manager Michael Jasso. “The temporary ban on evictions is part of the City’s efforts to address the financial impacts of the disease on residential and local business renters.”
The ordinance applies to residential and commercial tenants within the limits of the City of Sacramento and all residential tenants regardless as to when the rental unit was built. Single-family residences and condominiums that are rented are included in this ordinance.
The City Council has also started a free Essential Worker Childcare program for first responders, health care workers and essential City of Sacramento employees.
The program provides care for 350 children (ages 5 to 12) at eight community centers throughout the city. The program is administered by the City’s Youth, Parks & Community Enrichment Department. The children will be kept in separate groups of 10 or less that will not intermingle.
“I am very proud of our city during this moment in time,” Steinberg said. “We are an organized and committed city, committed to helping everyone through this extraordinary experience known as the coronavirus crisis.”
At the federal level, a bipartisan relief package was passed recently to provide payments up to $1,200 to adults, and an additional $500 for each child.
“The stimulus bill passed today will provide critical support for California to fight COVID-19 and strengthen our hospitals and health care system. It means an additional $600 a week in Unemployment Insurance for the many Californians who have already lost jobs and the many more who will during this crisis, provides emergency loans and grants to help small businesses and non-profits keep people employed, and it provides direct aid to state and local governments so that we can respond to this emergency and aid communities and families during this time,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “States and local governments are on the front lines of fighting this pandemic — scaling up the capacity of our health system, supporting first responders, providing food aid, and supporting workers as they seek to make ends meet amid massive job losses. State and local governments will need additional and flexible funding to ensure they can continue responding to this crisis and continue critical services. California businesses and residents will also need additional federal support to weather this economic storm. California will work closely with our federal partners for more help to ensure that Californians can quickly recover from the economic, health, and humanitarian impacts from COVID-19.”
In California, Newsom and state legislators have also put forth measures to help working families. Newsom recently announced an executive order for mortgage and financial relief.
“Millions of California families will be able to take a sigh of relief,” said Governor Newsom of the measures. “These new financial protections will provide relief to California families and serve as a model for the rest of the nation. I thank each of the financial institutions that will provide this relief to millions of Californians who have been hurt financially from COVID-19.”
Newsom secured support from Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo and nearly 200 state-chartered banks, credit unions, and servicers to protect homeowners and consumers with a proposal that Californians who are struggling with the COVID-19 crisis may be eligible for a 90-day grace period on mortgage payments if they are affected by the coronavirus. The participating financial institutions, which include all major banks except Bank of America, also agreed not to report negative credit information related to the relief.
Newsom’s measures also means financial institutions will not initiate foreclosure sales or evictions, consistent with applicable guidelines, and for at least 90 days won’t asses mortgage late fees.
Under the new federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), job-protected leave has now been expanded to include coronavirus-related absences. Workers may be entitled to job-protected leave to self-isolate because of a diagnosis of COVID-19, or to comply with a recommendation or order to quarantine due to exposure or exhibition of symptoms; to obtain a medical diagnosis or care if the employee is experiencing symptoms; to care for a family member who is self-isolating due to a diagnosis of coronavirus, experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and needs to obtain medical diagnosis or care, or quarantining due to exposure or exhibition of symptoms; or to care for a child whose school has closed, or childcare provider is unavailable, due to the coronavirus.
If you are unable to work because you have or were exposed to COVID-19 and are in quarantine, you also may be able to apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI) through the Employment Development Department (if you have been contributing to the program through tax deductions). SDI benefits provide short-term benefit payments for non-work related illnesses and injuries, or pregnancy. The SDI program provides a wage replacement of about 60 to 70 percent (depending on income) for a maximum of 52 weeks.
If you cannot work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, you may be eligible for Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits. PFL provides eligible employees (those paying into SDI) with up to six weeks of wage replacement benefits to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or registered domestic partner, parent, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-laws. PFL provides a wage replacement of approximately 60 to 70 percent of their weekly salary, with a maximum of $1,300 per week.